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MUSEUM

Three arrested after ‘biggest art heist in modern history’ in Dresden

German police on Tuesday arrested three suspects over a spectacular heist a year ago in which more than a dozen diamond-encrusted items were snatched from a state museum in Dresden.

Three arrested after 'biggest art heist in modern history' in Dresden
Archive photo shows visitors inside the Green Vault. Photo: DPA

Investigators were also raiding 18 properties in Berlin, including 10 apartments as well as garages and vehicles, police and prosecutors said in a statement.

“The measures today are focused on the search for the stolen art treasures and possible evidence, such as data storage media, clothing and tools,” they said.

In what local media have described as the biggest art heist in modern history, the robbers had launched their brazen raid on Green Vault museum in Dresden's Royal Palace on November 25th, 2019.

READ ALSO: 'Up to a billion euros' of jewels and antiques stolen from Dresden museum

Having initiated a partial power cut and broken in through a window, they snatched priceless 18th-century jewellery from the collection of the Saxon ruler August the Strong.

Items stolen included a sword whose hilt is encrusted with nine large and 770 smaller diamonds, and a shoulderpiece which contains the famous 49-carat Dresden white diamond, Dresden's Royal Palace had said.

Dramatic CCTV footage released at that time showed one of the robbers breaking into a display case with an axe.

Police hunting for the suspects had launched several appeals, offering up to half a million euros in reward for information leading to their arrests.

On Monday, around 1,600 officers were deployed in the raids and arrests, with special reinforcements called in from across the country to help.

Police did not identify the three arrested, but said they are German citizens.

All three are accused of “serious gang robbery and two counts of arson,” said Dresden prosecutors.

100-kg gold coin

Germany has been hit by several high-profile heists, with banks and museums frequent targets.

A Berlin court sentenced three men to multi-year jail sentences in February for the theft of a 100-kilogram gold coin from one of the German capital's museums.

Police have found no trace of the Canadian coin since the late-night heist in March 2017 from the Bode Museum, located close to Chancellor Angela Merkel's Berlin apartment.

READ ALSO: €1 million gold coin stolen from iconic Bode Museum

The “Big Maple Leaf”, one of five minted in 2007, is considered the world's second largest gold coin after the one-tonne Australian Kangaroo issued in 2012.

Robbers also hit a German customs office early November, making off with €6.5 million in cash.

Police have offered €100,000 in reward for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of the suspects.

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ART

Paul Gauguin’s ‘Mata Mua’ returns to Spain

One of French painter Paul Gauguin's most famous paintings, "Mata Mua", will return to a Madrid museum on Monday following an agreement between the Spanish government and its owner, who took it out of the country.

mata mua madrid
Toward the end of his life, Gauguin spent ten years in French Polynesia, where he completed some of his most famous artwork Painting: Paul Gaugin

The artwork had been on display for two decades at Madrid’s Thyssen-Bornemisza museum but in 2020 when the institution closed because of the pandemic, the painting’s owner Carmen Thyssen moved it to Andorra where she currently lives.

Her decision to take “Mata Mua” to the microstate sandwiched between Spain and France raised fears she would remove other works from her collection which are on display at the museum.

“It is expected that the painting will arrive today,” a spokeswoman for the museum told AFP.

mata-mua_gauguin-madrid

In 1989, Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza bought Mata Mua at the Sotheby’s auction in New York. Painting: Paul Gauguin

The artwork will go back on display to the public “a few days after” Thyssen signs a new agreement with the Spanish state for the lease of her collection, she added. The deal is expected to be signed on Wednesday.

Painted in 1892 in vivid, flat colours, “Mata Mua” depicts two women, one playing the flute and the other listening, set against a lush Tahitian landscape.

It is one of the stars of Thyssen’s collection of several hundred paintings which are on show at the museum, including works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Claude Monet.

Her collection had initially been displayed at the Madrid museum as part of a free loan agreement signed in February 2002 that was subsequently extended.

But in August 2021 Spain’s culture ministry announced it had reached an agreement with Thyssen to rent the collection from her for 15 years for €97.5 million ($111.5 million), with “preferential acquisition rights on all or part” of the works. The collection includes a Degas, a Hopper and a Monet.

Aside from housing her collection of works, the museum displays the collection of her late husband, Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Swiss heir to a powerful industrial lineage who died in Spain in 2002.

The Spanish state bought his collection in 1993 from $350 million, according to the museum.

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